Housing Ombudsman launches consultation on 2023-24 business plan

The Housing Ombudsman has started to consult on its business plan for 2023-24. The business plan covers the second year of the Ombudsman’s 2022-25 corporate plan, which aims to deliver an independent, visible and proactive service for social housing residents and landlords.

The consultation seeks views to help the Ombudsman deliver its awareness raising and Center for Learning activities, representing two of the three strategic programs set out in the corporate plan.

The consultation came after the inquest into the tragic and preventable death of Awaab Ishak. The period following the inquiry led to another surge in inquiries and complaints to the service which has been handling unprecedented volumes of casework since 2021-22. The cost-of-living crisis, economic pressures and increased media coverage are also expected to lead to more complaints during 2023-24.

To ensure the Ombudsman can meet demand, growth forecasts have been significantly increased above our original assumptions and we expect to deliver over 10,000 investigations in 2023-24, a four-fold rise. The service has introduced a new operating model improving efficiency and the plan sets out the resources required to deliver timeliness, quality and impact.

The plan anticipates a year of further change for social landlords with the progression of the Social Housing (Regulation) Bill and reforms in the Social Housing White Paper.

Business plan 23-24

Richard Blakeway, Housing Ombudsmansaid: “Recent events in the sector mean the Ombudsman has never had such significance: both in setting standards for local complaint handling, resolving individual disputes and promoting learning from complaints to improve services.

“The cases we are handling are more complex and this is reflected in the tenfold increase in severity maladministration findings. We are ordering more remedies to put things right – from repairs to apologies – alongside some significant compensation awards. The unrestricted demand for independent dispute resolution and engagement with our work will require a step-change in resources and approach to support landlords in delivering service change and prevent complaints from arising.

“But ever-increasing demand does not mean that all residents are able to access or are aware of the Ombudsman. So, we will be delivering activities to reach those residents who complain least and are consulting on what further information we can develop to raise awareness and understanding of our role. This includes complaints being seen as a genuine alternative to the courts.

“Encouraging learning to improve services should be a key area of ​​focus for landlords as they respond to the operational challenges ahead, not least pro-active consumer regulation. Our 2023-24 business plan will see the delivery of our Center for Learning platform and we are seeking resident and landlord views on the learning tools they would most value.”

The consultation is open until 27 February 2023.